Wellbeing Week - Making Friends & Community

It's well-documented that loneliness can cause depression and can even shorten your lifespan, but making friends as an adult can be... well, tricky. The positive impact on your wellbeing can be huge, though, so consider getting involved with one of our lil ol' town's social groups or community activities.

Being integrated into your community and the strength of your social networks can help combat loneliness, reduce stress, even ward off dementia: The key is to find people you feel connected with and that might require reaching out, but with all the health benefits you’ll get, not to mention the pleasure of company, it’s worth the effort.

A prime example of this is the inspirational Warm & Toasty Club: a unique life-affirming intergenerational community organisation working in music, arts and history. They work with older people aged 60+ (often in their 80's and 90's) living in retirement establishments and hold regular memory afternoons which are engaging and entertaining people-centred oral history sessions with live entertainment. They chat, laugh, drink tea, eat biscuits and have a wonderful time revelling in the stories from everyone's past.

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If you're new to the area, or have been largely stuck at home raising children then it can be hard to make new connections. A great first step might be joing Soroptimist International Colchester. This is an international global volunteer movement working together to transform the lives of women and girls with nearly 80,000 Members in 124 countries. At the local group, which meets monthly, you can make friends with like-minded women, have fun and work on projects that help improve the lives of women and girls locally and further afield.

There are lots of groups and associations that cater to women, but increasingly there is an awareness that it can be especially difficult for men to connect and make new friendships. The Men's Sheds Association creates community spaces for men to connect, converse and create. The activities are often similar to those of garden sheds, but for groups of men to enjoy together. They help reduce loneliness and isolation, but most importantly, they’re fun. In the Colchester area there is the Cut Maple Shed, in Halstead, which meets fortnightly. They have a large workshop and activities can include walking stick making, repairing lawnmowers, restoring furniture, metal work and welding. Another Shed is in the planning in Clacton. Perhaps Colchester should also look at starting one?

Another angle to come from when looking to make new friends is finding a group or community that are as enthusiastic about something as you are - a great example in Colchester is the vintage aficionado community, which is brought together at activities such as the Secret Vintage World Fair on May 26th at the The Minories.

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The vintage community in Colchester is going strong with vintage tearooms like Cardamon Tea Lounge and Jacqueline's Tearoom, vintage and vintage-inspired shops like Best Days Vintage and Chocodolly and regular music and dance events, such as the Sweeting Swing Band at the bandstand in the Castle Park, the Steamy Vintage Encounter at the East Anglian Railway Museum, tea dances at Charter Hall and jazz and big band at the Arts Centre.

Even just a day out at a local event can lift the spirits and make one feel part of the community. Various areas in Colchester organise their own open days and local galas, but for a village fete in the centre of town, full of singing, dancing, fun and games and lots of interesting stalls, you can't beat the Trinity Street Festival tomorrow, May 20th, from 10am to 4pm.

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The prettiest street in Colchester will be pedestrianised for the day, and play host to a free-to-attend feel-good gathering of the community. It may be just the tonic you need. See you there!